By Hayley M. Cook
BELFRY, Ky. – Belfry High School held a summer art camp for incoming students in kindergarten through 12th grade Wednesday and Thursday, and the event was a huge success for all schools involved, with two times more students than originally anticipated in attendance.
“We only anticipated having 20 students, but 64 have participated today and 52 came yesterday,” said Family Resources Coordinator Sheri Cassel. “This is way above our expectations and we are just thrilled with how this program has gone.”
Three other family resources coordinators were present along with Cassell to help the camp run smoothly and keep everything in order. Vanessia Gillispie, Pat May and Eugenia Whitt all contributed to the day as well. All four ladies shared their excitement over the event, which involved interactive art projects from three different instructors.
The children were separated by grade into three groups: kindergarten and first grade, second through fourth grade, and fifth through eighth grade. These groups then rotated through the three classes, each of which chose to emphasize a different area of art.
Christopher Epling, one of the teachers, recognized illustrator and art director of Saint Francis Church in Pikeville, taught the visual arts class, with an emphasis on creating cartoons and comic strips.
Epling described how impressed he was with his students, saying, “I’ve worked at over 300 schools with so many kids, and I have to say, the talent I see in Pike County just blows me away. These kids are so talented, and I’m happy to give them the chance to showcase that. There is more creativity in kids here than I’ve seen in a long time”
“The students love Christopher (Epling),” Gillispie said. “They just think he is the best. He has worked with many of them before and comes to Belfry often. He has a good connection with these kids.”
Many of Epling’s students emphasized how much they loved his class, with eight-year-old Josie Swiney citing it as her favorite.
“Drawing with Christopher was my favorite because he really inspires me with his work,” Swiney said, referencing Epling’s career as a comic and book illustrator. “He is more like a friend than a teacher and he is really fun.”
Chelsea Workman, extension intern with 4-H and Family Consumer Sciences, handled the food art class along with high school senior and volunteer Nancy Maynard. Workman encouraged her kids to use different types of fruits, vegetables and other snacks to create pictures. The children were then able to eat their creations, which yielded some interesting reactions.
“They learned about veggies and fruit, and had fun eating new foods,” Workman said. “We had a great variety, including broccoli, cucumbers, strawberries, green beans and many other healthy foods. Sometimes they liked it and sometimes they spit it out. One girl tried a blackberry and had to spit it out in my hand, but another girl was eating red and green peppers like they were candy!”
Maynard, who is an incoming senior at Belfry High School this fall, said she enjoyed seeing the kids come up with different pictures.
“I like seeing what they could come up with. They were all really creative and I think they have had fun doing this,” she said.
Meredith Yount was in charge of the sculpting class, and said her students had fun sculpting whatever they could imagine.
“They were originally supposed to sculpt their favorite animal, but we have had many different things today,” Yount said, pointing to a table of at least 60 different clay sculptures. “We’ve had a lot of girls making Olaf from the movie “Frozen.” They just get to use their imagination a lot with this type of art.”
Some children had their parents present to watch them create their art projects.
Crystal Justice, mother to seven-year-old Cara and 12-year-old Chelby, said the day had been a lot of fun for her daughters.
“It has been hands on, self-assuring and creative for all of these kids,” Justice said. “My kids have really enjoyed it. They love Christopher (Epling) and they really enjoyed creating drawings with him.”
Beth Hayes brought three of her children to the program: 11-year-old Courtney, 10-year-old Nathaniel and nine-year-old Lee. She said that, although her youngest child, Lee, doesn’t enjoy drawing, he was able to learn to express himself creatively in a different way.
“The class about making pictures with food suited my boy well,” Hayes said, laughing. “He may not like to draw, but he sure does love to eat!”
The children were served lunch on both days of the art camp and were able to take several art projects home with them as well.
Hayley Molloy Cook is a news reporter and writes features for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2279, or on Twitter @hayleymcook.